Greenport village residents are gearing up to oppose a plan to create a drainage swale at Fifth Street Park, a move designed to prevent stormwater runoff from polluting the bay that residents fear would reduce the space available for recreational activity.
More than a dozen concerned residents met with village administrator Paul Pallas for more than an hour at the park Monday morning to voice their displeasure with the project, which would be funded through a portion of a $250,000 state Department of Environmental Conservation grant. The residents said their next step will be to attend Thursday’s Greenport Village Board work session, where they are expected to ask the board to direct Mr. Pallas to abandon the plan.
“This is going to ruin the park,” said resident John Winkler, who has been following the project since it was first proposed about two years ago by former village utilities director Jack Naylor. “It’s going to take a lot of this park away and this is a park that is used by everyone.”
The informal meeting was set up between Mr. Winkler and Mr. Pallas, but about a dozen more concerned residents also showed up.
The swale would be about 10 feet wide and 4 1/2 feet deep and run across much of the park’s north side. It would be positioned between the tree lines about 10 feet from the fence on Johnson Street; no trees would be removed.
Residents who attended Monday’s gathering said the swale would have a major impact on how much of the park, where summer day camps are held, could be used by the public. That particular portion of the park is used for pickup soccer and baseball games, they said.
Kirsten Droskoski, a Greenport school board member and concerned resident, said the park was donated in the 1930s as a place of recreation for the community and should remain as such — a sentiment echoed by many of her neighbors.
“You are taking away a huge area of the park for nothing other than to spend the money you’re getting in a grant,” said resident Helen Weinstein. “Get a grant for something that’s needed in this community.”
Mr. Pallas said the village had submitted alternative plans to the DEC, which would have placed a portion of the swale on the Sixth Street side of the park, where more flooding typically occurs. The DEC rejected those plans since the grant is for addressing water quality issues, not flooding.
“They will only fund the original plan,” Mr. Pallas said. “They are not going to budge on that.”
“Then give the money back,” remarked resident Bill Swiskey, to a round of applause from his neighbors.
Mr. Pallas and assistant Derryl Baumer said they will present more details about the project at Thursday’s work session, including cost estimates and the exact percentage of recreational space that would be lost to the swale. Mr. Pallas said Monday that he believes more than $100,000 of the $250,000 grant would go to the Fifth Street plan, with the rest going to a similar proposal on Manor Place, a project community members support.
Village Board members appeared supportive of the community’s concerns about Fifth Street Park Monday.
Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, who attended the meeting, said she’s glad residents had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Pallas directly about the project. She said she expects the Village Board will discuss the issue at its work session Thursday, but doesn’t anticipate immediate action will be taken.
“Voting on a resolution at a work session doesn’t give the rest of the community the opportunity to comment at the regular board meeting,” she said. “I think it could go any number of ways: We could discuss it and then put a resolution up for the regular meeting or we could table it and try one more time to [amend the plan]. There are many options on the table and it’s something that needs to be discussed among my fellow trustees.”
Reached by telephone Monday, Mayor George Hubbard said the board has had concerns over the project for some time and he believes it’s likely the village will end up not following through on the Fifth Street Park project.
“You hate to turn away money,” he said, “but this does not seem to be something people want.”